Saturday, January 30, 2010

Suspect Extradited to U.S.

Mexico ships suspect in slaying of U.S. Border Patrol agent from El Paso.

El Paso Times

El Paso -- Two years of waiting in agony for Mexico to turn over a murder suspect in the slaying of a U.S. Border Patrol agent from El Paso ended Thursday for the victim's family.

The man thought to be responsible for the death of Senior Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar Jr. near Yuma, Ariz., was extradited to the United States, where he faces murder and drug charges.

Officials said Jesús Navarro Montes arrived in Houston Thursday and would be transported to Southern California to face the charges.

Navarro is charged with running over and killing Aguilar, 32, during a drug-smuggling attempt. Navarro had been arrested, released and then rearrested by Mexican authorities.

The agent's father, Luis "Louie" Aguilar Sr., an El Paso County constable, said that the loss of a son is tragic but that with Navarro now in U.S. custody, the case can move forward into the federal court system.

"I don't know if we will ever be ready to be in the same room with him," Aguilar Sr. said.

"I thank everybody for not forgetting my son," Aguilar Sr. said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I appreciate everybody in El Paso supporting us. He was a good boy.

"I ask everybody to continue with their prayers for us. We need all their prayers," he said. "It's not been easy these past two years."

On Jan. 19, 2008, Aguilar Jr. was killed when he was struck by a Hummer H2, allegedly driven by Navarro, while the agent was trying to lay spike strips to stop the drug-laden vehicle during a pursuit in southeastern California's Imperial Sand Dunes, about 20 miles west of Yuma.

A federal grand jury in San Diego last year indicted Navarro on charges of murder and marijuana smuggling.

Aguilar Jr.'s death had sparked a cross-border manhunt that hit a snag when Navarro was arrested but then released by a Mexican judge in Mexicali in June 2008.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., would later say that Navarro was set free because U.S. authorities had not sought his extradition or convey to the judge that he was wanted on other charges.

Last February, Mexican federal agents arrested Navarro near the resort town of Zihuatenejo in an operation coordinated with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service.

"The extradition announced (Thursday) is the result of close cooperation between the United States and Mexican law enforcement authorities," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

Aguilar Jr. graduated from El Paso High School, became a sheriff's detention officer and later joined the Border Patrol. He is survived by a wife and two children. His brother Marco Aguilar is also in the Border Patrol.

"I'm glad Mexico worked with us to make sure this person does not get away with it," Aguilar Sr. said. "The DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office in California -- they have been working so hard to get to where we are at. All of us know it is not easy working with Mexico, and somebody did a great job."

The story:

Border agent killers still being sought.

January 23, 2008

An international manhunt continued yesterday for the killers of a U.S. Border Patrol agent who died Saturday when suspected drug smugglers ran him down as he tried to lay spike strips on a road about a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Agent Luis Aguilar Jr., 32, who spent his six-year Border Patrol career at the agency's Yuma, Ariz., sector, was killed when struck by the driver of a Hummer fleeing other Border Patrol agents near the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, about 20 miles west of the Arizona border.

Border Patrol officials said Agent Aguilar was struck at 9:30 a.m. as others agents were trying to stop the fleeing Hummer and a Ford F-250 pickup that crossed from Mexico into the United States. Both vehicles fled back into Mexico. No arrests have been made.

The agent was declared dead at the scene.

"Agent Aguilar's death serves as another stark reminder of the risks our front-line agents and officers face each day as we strive to secure America's borders," said U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, who oversees the Border Patrol.

"This despicable act will only strengthen our resolve to continue securing our borders, even in the face of increased violence," Mr. Basham said.

The FBI is leading the investigation with what Mr. Basham described as the full cooperation of other federal, state and local authorities, along with Mexican police and military.

Mexican authorities in Baja California recovered the burned remains of a Hummer and Ford pickup Sunday afternoon. Identification numbers found in the vehicles showed the Hummer was stolen in Santa Ana, Calif., and the Ford pickup was reported stolen in Calexico, Calif.

"It can't be confirmed that they are the vehicles, but from the descriptions and the time they were found, they could be the vehicles that took part" in the smuggling attempt, said Juan Francisco Chapa, an international liaison for the Baja Mexico police.

Agent Aguilar's death, the first for the Border Patrol in 2008, comes at a time when assaults on border agents continue to rise — from 384 in 2005 to 987 in 2007. In the first quarter of fiscal 2008, which began Oct. 1, there have been 300 assaults on Border Patrol agents, on a pace to reach 1,200 by the end of the year.

The rise is attributed by CBP to a greater law-enforcement presence, criminal resistance to tightening operational control along the Southwest border and turf battles between rival drug- and alien-smuggling gangs.

"Dangerous criminal groups have chosen to respond to our tougher security posture at the border with increased violence," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "They mistakenly believe we will give way in the face of violence. We will continue to show them how wrong they are.

"I am outraged by this tragic loss," he said. "The American public stands with the men and women of the Border Patrol, and I am deeply grateful for their heroic service."

Border Patrol officials said agents observed the Hummer and the Ford pickup crossing from Mexico about 20 miles west of Yuma. They said the vehicles were headed west on Interstate 8 — a popular smuggling route to San Diego and Los Angeles — but turned around and sped back to Mexico when they spotted the agents.

Agent Aguilar is survived by his wife, two children and a brother, Senior Border Patrol Agent Marcos Aguilar, who is assigned in the Nogales, Ariz., field office. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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